Baxter - Houston-Packer Collection BX5200 .B352 1835 v1

64 LIFE OF RICHARD BAXTER. system in the church, and to make all men respect and obey the decrees ofthis spiritual authority. The Independents took a dif- ferent ground. Theybelieved, indeed, that the power of admis- sion to church privileges, and of exclusion from ordinances, was independent of the civil government ; but they believed that this power resided, both by a right resting on theprinciples of common sense, and by a right resting on divine authority, in the officers and members of each particular church, and there only. They had seceded from the church of England, and had assumed their nat- ural liberty of forming churches and worshipping God according to their own views of propriety, without asking leave of the govern- ment; and they had engaged id this war for the vindication of what they supposed to be their natural liberty. In opposition, therefore, not only to the prelatical party, but to the Presbyterians, . and the Erastians, they were for a toleration; and while it does not appear that they were, as a body, unwilling tohave any public provision for the support of religious instruction, theywere zealous for an entire separation between church and state. The Presbyterians had a numerical majority in parliament, and a still stronger majority in the assembly of divines ; for, on almost every question between them and the Independents, all who were for a church establishment, all who believed it to belong to the magistrate to interfere with his authority in matters ofreligion, and all who deemed uniformity in doctrine, discipline and worship, an object of supreme importance, acted with that party. The Inde- pendents, however, had on their side some ofthe most active, adroit and efficient men in parliament ; they had a plain and popular cause; and they had, as their natural allies, the Baptists and the numerous minor sects which were beginning to spring up from the chaotic and fermenting elements. With these advantages they were able at first to hinder andembarrass, and at last to defeat, the scheme of Presbyterian uniformity. In the army, especially, the cause of the Independents made rapid progress. The soldiers had been all along fighting, as they supposed, against unwarrantable impositionson the conscience ; and when they found that they had fought down one hierarchy, only that the parliament and the assembly of divines might set up an- other, they began to entertain anot unreasonable dissatisfaction. Nor was the nation at large long indifferent to these considerations. Thousands began to see that, as Milton phrased it, " New presbyter is but oldpriest writ large ;" and with Milton theywere ready to cry out, " Because you have thrown offyour prelate lord, Andwith stiff vows renounced his liturgy,